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Bach’s Sacred Cantatas: A Journey Through Human Emotions

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, March 21, 2024 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2311
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Materials for this program

Portrait of Johann Sebastian Bach, ca. 1746, by Elias Gottlob Haussmann (Museum of City History, Leipzig)

Why does Johann Sebastian Bach’s music remain deeply relevant to our times, despite having been composed 300 years ago under entirely different social, economic, political, cultural, moral, and religious circumstances? Because it draws on all shades of timeless human emotions. A Bach performer once said he couldn’t think of one that the composer had not set to music.

Singer Thierry van Bastelaer leads a journey through those emotions in Bach’s religious cantatas. These works—in essence, poetic and musical commentaries on sacred texts associated with specific dates on the Lutheran liturgical calendar—constitute about a third of Bach’s entire output, yet just a few of them are performed or heard regularly, despite containing some of his most affecting music.

In a presentation highlighted by musical recordings and video clips of performances that span sentiments from sadness and despair to jubilation and consolation, van Bastelaer discusses the often-challenging circumstances under which the works were composed, points out features of the music, and offers glimpses of Bach as a man, employee, husband, and father.

Belgian-born baritone van Bastelaer, the founder and curator of a group dedicated to the study and appreciation of Johann Sebastian Bach's cantatas, has participated in historically informed performances of the composer’s choral works and has taught courses on Bach’s religious music since 2021.

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